Memory in Animals – How Does Your Pet Measure Up?
Have you ever wondered how good your pets memory is? Does your pet seem to be a repeat offender when it comes to misbehavior? Do they seem to recall some things (like the sight of the bag of treats) with an amazing ability and then completely blank out with other things (I didn’t know that was a no-no…)? Animals, unlike humans, tend to remember things that are triggered as important to their survival. In the wild, an animal may always remember the way back to a popular watering hole, but show no recollection of a recent event. As a result, when considering the memory of a pet, it has to be divided into what they remember in the short-term, and what they remember in the long-term.
The short term memory span of a rabbit is four minutes!
Like most animals, dogs have great long-term memories, but are unable to keep track of time and specific events like humans can. Their long-term memories for remembering their training or tricks, are created not by remembering specific episodes, but by connections that are formed in their brain during the training which result in memory “impulses”. So that their reactions to certain stimulus become second nature to them. It’s important to have an empathetic understanding of animal memory when you decide to take on a pet – even more so when you decide to train one!
Their lack of a short-term memory is the reason why disciplinary action must be taken immediately after a bad behavior occurred. If your pet tore up the house and made a mess while you were away, by the time you get home, it’s too late to punish them and expect any effect except other than making them scared of you for a little while. Lasting training and discipline with most pets must come in the form of immediate cause and effect – you go into the brier patch and get scratched or you touch something hot and get burned. Committing a “pet crime” and then getting punished a few hours later is seen as nothing more than abuse by your pet, not punishment. It will result in no change in your pets behavior other than making them less trusting of you, and trust is a key factor in successfully training a pet.
Interesting facts and statistics about animal memory:
- Fish can remember where for is for up to twelve days! On the down side though they probably have no idea who you are. Their short term memory span is about three seconds.
- Dogs short-term memory maxes out at about two minutes – no punishing if it’s been longer than two minutes!
- Chimpanzees will forget trivial information in about 20 seconds, but have a visual memory far superior to humans allowing them to recognize other chimpanzees and places.
- Sea lions can recall frivolous things they were taught for up to a decade.
- Ravens remember faces and voices for their entire lifetime.
- Cats memories are said to be much better than dogs. Cats are believe to have a short term memory of about sixteen hours – maybe it’s that slow pace they’re known for!
- A rabbits short-term memory is about 4 minutes.
- Hamsters have terrible memories. The poor little buggers will occasionally forget what they were doing moments after starting!